CFOA responds to Radio 5 Live programme on second appliances

Following the recent Radio 5 Live programme ‘5 Live Investigates’ on fire appliance response times, the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) would like to clarify a key point made in the programme.

During the programme, it was stated that firefighters are not allowed – by law – to enter a burning building before a second appliance arrives as back-up.

CFOA would like to reassure the public that this is not the case; this is an untrue statement which misrepresents fire and rescue services and the thousands of firefighters working across the UK to keep the communities they serve safe.

In the example given during the news item it implied that there was no intervention by fire crews before the second appliance arrived. This is not a true record of events; the first attending appliance had commenced firefighting and rescue immediately on arrival.

National Operational Guidance allows firefighters to enter a property to conduct lifesaving operations within a safe system of work, even when crew numbers are limited.

CFOA has also highlighted the Fire and Rescue Services operate to their own local plans, called Integrated Risk Management Plans (IRMP).

These allow individual services to assess risks to communities, meaning resources can be targeted to prevent incidents and ensure resources are in the best location. These plans are tailored to meet the needs of the community, the environment, commercial activity, local needs and also economic factors.

This approach allows services to more responsive to local needs and the plans are reviewed, monitored and updated regularly.

The programme itself focused on response times based on a Freedom of Information request by the BBC. 60 per cent of fire and rescue services stated that second fire engines were slower to respond to house fires currently than in 2010.

While Government figures show response times across the UK are up by 20 seconds for dwelling fires, CFOA firmly believes that these figures should not be taken in isolation; risk management plans and National Operational Guidance must be taken in account when looking at these statistics.

Following the Home Secretary’s Fire Reform announcement earlier this year, CFOA made a commitment to work with the Government to drive reform forward, including CFOA taking a leading role in seeking assurance that fire and rescue service funding will be sustainable.

It is a well documented fact that austerity measures has led to fire budget cuts of more than £300 million during the last six years (28% of government funding), which has had an impact on recruitment.

In addition, the number of operational staff has fallen by almost a fifth in the last five years. All Services use their resources in the most effective way to serve their communities.

CFOA RESPONDS TO ANNOUNCEMENT: ARMY ON STANDBY FOR WINTER FLOODING

Following the Government’s announcement that 1,200 soldiers have been placed on 24-hour standby to assist with flooding this winter, the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) has responded in support of the news, while highlighting the essential role of UK Fire and Rescue Services.

Last winter’s floods in Cumbria and Lancashire impacted upon thousands of families, with many being evacuated, homes severely damage and more than 60,000 properties being without power, due to the flooding of a power station.

The Fire and Rescue Service makes the largest contribution to the national flood response capability, with more than 100 powered rescue boat teams and 36 non-powered rescue boat teams immediately available for deployment.

CFOA is committed to working alongside the police, ambulance service, the military and other partners to ensure the best possible response is delivered to communities when affected by wide area flooding.

During Storm Desmond last Christmas and Storm Gertrude at the beginning of 2016, Fire and Rescue Services from across the UK worked tirelessly to assist.

This was part of a national response, coordinated by CFOA’s national resilience arrangements. This means teams can be quickly mobilised nationally to assist with equipment, rescue teams and expertise.

Fire and Rescue Services across the UK worked together to deliver a co-ordinated response to the widespread flooding with high volume pumps and other specialist equipment being mobilised, alongside personnel trained to deal with the flooding caused by the severe weather.

This included the deployment of fire appliances, teams, high volume pumps, wading teams, swift water rescue trained firefighters on powered rescue boats, tactical advisers, logistical support and standard fire pumps.

High volume pumps are capable of moving up to 7,000 litres of water per minute, while powered boats crewed by swift water rescue trained firefighters and wading teams are essential in helping to rescue people and ensuring vital supplies can be delivered.

These numbers are supplemented by almost every fire appliance in the UK; with firefighters trained and equipped to provide as a minimum an initial rescue capability. This response can be sustained over an extended period of time.

The National Resilience Assurance Team (NRAT), supported by lead CFOA officers, coordinates the national response and provides vital support to government.

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Dan Stephens, CFOA National Resilience Strategic Lead, said: “All of the emergency services work together closely around the clock to assist people at times of flooding. Being able to mobilise our national assets quickly and effectively is an essential part of our national resilience response; the public need to have confidence that the emergency services can – and will – respond quickly when they need us.

Both Storm Desmond and Gertrude highlighted how essential an efficient national response is for the UK and Fire and Rescue Services play a leading role in delivering this. The government must ensure national resilience assets are not understated, to ensure CFOA can continue to coordinate a national response and continue to offer this level of response as and when required.”

CFOA believes the way forward in delivering an efficient, resilient and cost effective national response to major flooding events should be based on a clear statement of duties, with Fire and Rescue Services playing a leading role. In addition it is critical that the government continues to properly and fully fund National Resilience Assets to ensure they are always available to emergencies such as this.

Highly experienced Fire and Rescue Service strategic and tactical advisers support affected areas and strategic and tactical coordination groups to resolve incidents as has been consistently demonstrated since the Cumbria floods in 2005.

The Fire and Rescue Service also coordinates a national response to wide area flooding on behalf of DEFRA through a well-established and highly effective National Coordination and Advisory Framework

CFOA responds to Home Office publishing fire equipment costs

Following the Home Office publishing the costs of fire service equipment across the country, the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) has said work is already underway to ensure communities get the best value for money from the fire service.

Today (August 24th), the Home Office published data – part of the transparency agenda – to make the fire service more accountable to the public.

Ahead of the Fire Reform programme which was announced in May this year, CFOA had already set up a number of projects to look at procurement of goods to ensure best value for money and quality.

This procurement exercise was the first national overview of what each Fire and Rescue Authority pays for 25 common items of uniform and equipment. The results showed differing costs for what services are paying for equipment.

Equipment included:  helmets; hoses; tunics; clothing including shirts and trousers; breathing apparatus and ICT equipment. The full list can be found on the Home Office website.

Paul Hancock, President of the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA), commented on the Home Office figures:

“We have been working closely with fire and rescue services and the Home Office to provide the government with transparent figures on procurement across the sector.

“We recognise there are differences in costs of equipment across the sector and work is underway to address this.  We have established a Strategic Commercial Committee with the Home Office with the objective of transforming the fire commercial landscape as a whole.”

“We have already identified categories of high expenditure which offer the greatest opportunities for savings from collaboration. These include: vehicle maintenance, operational equipment, ICT, clothing and training.

“We are very supportive of this piece of work by the Home Office and will continue to work closely with them to ensure we provide the best service to the public, while demonstrating best value for money.”

  • Home Office published data as part of transparency agenda to make the fire service more accountable to the public
  • According to the Home Office data, it shows there is scope for Fire and Rescue Authorities to make further savings in procuring equipment, in order to deliver value for money
  • This is the first step in the Government’s programme of reform for the sector focusing on diversity, efficiency and transparency. The data will enable authorities, and the public, to compare how much they spend on these essential items to ensure they are getting the best value for money
  • CFOA is also forming a new Strategic Commercial Committee, led by Ann Millington, Kent FRS’s Chief Executive, with the objective of transforming the fire commercial landscape as a whole
  • The published data can be found on gov.uk

Enabling Collaboration between Emergency Services – Government Consultation Response

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The Home Office, Department of Communities and Local Government and the Department of Health have today published their response to the consultation held on enabling closer collaboration between emergency services.

CFOA welcomes the confirmation that a duty to collaborate will be introduced and we will support instances where a robust local business case is made for collaboration. We will provide guidance and input to the Home Office and local services to ensure that all plans for collaboration consider the full range of issues and will produce the right outcomes for the services involved and the public they serve. CFOA has already met with the new Fire Minister and officials from the Home Office to discuss the advice and guidance that the Association can offer as the department seeks to implement its reform agenda.

Fire and rescue services already work closely with colleagues from the emergency services – for example over a third of UK FRS are already co-responding with ambulance colleagues – and we will take steps to ensure this best practice is recognised, shared and replicated where possible. Shared control centres already exist in many parts of the country, both with other police and ambulance colleagues and between fire and rescue services, which has already provided significant efficiencies.

CFOA is pleased that the government will be maintaining the principle of local determination over governance changes, and we are keen that fire and rescue services do not lose their important links to local government, the NHS and other organisations which enable services to make an important wider social contribution. CFOA strongly believes that fire and rescue services can exploit our fantastic record in prevention and enviable public support to deliver a wide range of better social outcomes. We are pleased to see that the government “will encourage wider involvement in collaboration by other bodies such as local government, health bodies or the voluntary sector.

There is scope for further collaboration between emergency services to ensure effective local and by extension national resilience, building on existing good work through JESIP and elsewhere. We are pleased that two of the three emergency services are now within one government department, which should facilitate closer working at a central government level.  However, the government will have to consider the impact of ongoing funding cuts on fire service capacity to deliver local and national resilience, especially at a time when both Police and Ambulance have seen their budgets protected.

We are pleased that the government has reiterated that police and fire services will remain operationally distinct.

There remain some areas for further consideration, such as financial model that would be put in place where PCCs do take over, and the potential implications of allowing a joint “Chief Officer” to designate certain police powers to their fire personnel. The Government also intends to consider further how assurance and assessment can be improved, building on the Peer Review system and the potential for the reintroduction of an inspectorate for fire in some form.  CFOA will work with the Home Office and our police and ambulance colleagues to consider all these issues and others in more detail.

Paul Hancock, CFOA President said;

“CFOA will work with the Home Office to help them implement their reform agenda to ensure it produces the most benefit for the fire and rescue service and the public we serve. The UK Fire and Rescue Service is a world class emergency service with a distinct brand and reputation, but there are opportunities for closer working with colleagues in the police, ambulance and beyond.”

“CFOA remain committed to a locally determined approach to the future of the fire and rescue service, and believe that local people and partners should support any proposed collaboration.  It will also be important to consider how ongoing funding reductions might impact on services and their capacity to deliver an ambitious reform agenda.”

CFOA President Paul Hancock appeared on the BBC’s Today programme this morning to discuss this issue with the Sir Ken Knight, author of the “Facing the Future” report in 2013. You can hear Paul and Sir Ken from around 1 hr 30 min.

CFOA’s initial response to the consultation can be found here.

Fire and Rescue Service move to the Home Office

Following the formal announcement this evening that fire and rescue services will be transferred to the Home Office from the Department of Communities and Local Government, The Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) makes the following statement: 

CFOA is supportive of emergency service collaboration and views the transfer of responsibility for fire and rescue services to the Home Office as an opportunity to improve co-ordination in areas such as national resilience, interoperability and operational response. This builds on the extensive collaboration that already exists, particularly at local level. The organisation of government departments and ministerial responsibilities are matters for the Prime Minister, but we are pleased that fire and rescue will remain a ministerial responsibility with suitable representation, and look forward to working with the Rt Hon Mike Penning MP and meeting with him in the near future.

However, as the transfer takes place over the coming months, CFOA will seek clarity about the arrangements for a range of matters, including transitioning policy, funding and provision to meet national and local emergencies. CFOA will seek assurance that fire and rescue service funding will be sustainable, consider in-depth UK national risks as a whole, and remain distinct from police and other Home Office budgets.

It is vital that National Resilience arrangements, including the Fire and Rescue Service National Coordination Centre, be maintained within the Home Office as they have been within DCLG. These resources and their supporting arrangements have proved their worth again and again, not least in the recent flooding in the North of England.

We are keen that fire and rescue services do not lose their important links to local government, the NHS, ambulance services and other organisations which enable services to make an important wider social contribution. We want to ensure continuing government support for existing collaborations, prevention activity and future opportunities for cooperation with a wide range of partners including, but not limited to, police services. In particular, and in line with our previously stated position, we believe decisions on mergers between fire authorities and Police and Crime Commissioners should be determined at a local level, based on a robust business case, and that fire and rescue services retain the important link with local government.

We will work with our colleagues in both DCLG and the Home Office to ensure the transition is smooth and effective, with minimal adverse impact on the provision of fire and rescue services. CFOA will continue to provide professional advice and guidance to the government on the future of governance and structural fire and rescue service reform and debates around the future of UK civil contingency.

CFOA President Paul Hancock said:

“We will continue to promote closer collaboration between police and fire where appropriate and for the benefit of the communities we serve. However, it is equally important that we continue to promote closer collaboration between fire and rescue services and partners in other emergency services, health, local government and the third sector where that provides positive outcomes and opportunities to improve the safety, health and well-being of the communities we serve.”

Fire services vital role in floods continue

Fire and Rescue services from across the country are continuing to work together to assist with flooding in the North of England.

This is part of the UK National Resilience assets deployment, organised by CFOA.

Firefighters are carrying out vital and dangerous work with communities, in very difficult circumstances. Credit must go to all agencies working together, along with communities who have suffered during the floods.

In addition, the government must recognise support and funding for national resilience must not be understated, to ensure fire and rescue services can respond quickly and effectively to such situations.

Flood rescue assets and pumping assets are being provided to the affected FRS as requested.
The selection, mobilisation and strategic cover is being planned and maintained between the Chief Fire and Rescue Advisor (CFRA), National Strategic Advisory Team (NSAT) and National Resilient Assurance Team (NRAT) officers.

The total number of assets currently deployed to flood related incidents include :
• 11 High Volume Pumps (HVP)
• 9 HVP double hose boxes
• 4 HVP Tactical Advisers
• 21 Flood Rescue boats
• 4 Flood Rescue Tactical Advisers
• 2 X Enhanced Logistics Support (ELS) vehicles

In addition, there are a number of Strategic Holding areas in place.

The work includes regular updates of affected areas to ensure assets can be deployed most effectively, which are being constantly updated as the situation changes.

Fire services continue to carry out vital work in Cumbria

UK Firefighters are continuing to assist in Cumbria after the area flooded for the third time in less than a month.

The Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) would like to highlight and praise the work of all the firefighters involved, who are carrying out complex and dangerous work in Cumbria.

Huge credit must go to all services which have been working around the clock to support communities across Cumbria and in Lancaster. The floods have devastated people’s lives, and it happening for the third time has made the situation worse.

Communities in the area have once again been affected by flood water, following high winds and torrential rain. Yellow weather warnings for heavy rain and high winds have been issued for Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

The fire service has played a pivotal and vital role during the recent floods. This has included rescuing people, trained firefighters on powered rescue boats, wading teams, tactical advisers, standard fire pumps and additional resources.

One crew rescued a woman who was trapped in her car, which was filling with water. They managed to smash the back window and pull her to safety.

For more information on the flooding and the latest news, please visit The guardian which has run an in-depth article on the situation.

This is part of a national response, coordinated by CFOA national resilience arrangements. This means teams can be quickly mobilised nationally to assist with equipment, rescue teams and expertise.

This response will continue for as long as firefighters are required in the area. Crews can be mobilised quickly if further flooding occurs.

Iti s important the public  has confidence that the emergency services can and will respond quickly when needed.

Incidents such as this highlight how essential an efficient national response is for the UK, which Fire and Rescue Services must play a leading role in delivering.

The government needs to ensures national resilience assets are not understated, so this level of response can be coordinated as and when required.

 

Response to the Local Government Finance Settlement

CFOA is concerned that local emergency fire and rescue services across the country face further significant budget cuts in the provisional Local Government Finance Settlement announced yesterday. The headline figures show that central government funding to stand-alone fire and rescue authorities will fall in cash terms by an average of 22% in the next four years. This is on top of an average funding cut of 22% (in real terms) since 2010 and concern expressed in the recent independent watchdog report by the National Audit Office report on the financial sustainability of Fire and Rescue Services, which stated that ‘capacity to respond to major incidents might be compromised by further funding reductions.’

The CFOA Presidential team met yesterday with the Department of Communities and Local Government and the Local Government Association to discuss the settlement. As you can imagine we are still in the early stages of understanding the specifics of the settlement including the assumptions DCLG have used to offset the grant reductions with increased income from business rates and council tax. We will be scrutinising it closely and will seek further discussions with Ministers and the Department in the near future.

CFOA President Paul Hancock made it clear in his evidence to the Public Accounts Committee two weeks ago that there will be an inevitable impact upon local and national resilience of further budget cuts of this magnitude.

Speaking today Paul said;

“Although the services have been making efficiencies in both non-frontline and frontline services, including reducing the number of senior managers, changing shift patterns and changing the way they work through increased collaboration with other services such as health and police, there is a fast approaching limit to what can be achieved without a more direct and visible impact on local, and by extension national resilience.”

The recent flooding in Cumbria and more broadly across the north of the UK saw fire and rescue services at their very best. CFOA played a pivotal role in the coordination of a huge number of resources, the majority of which are not given specific funding as National Resilience Assets. All these, and the expertise and resources used to advise, plan and coordinate the response could be impacted by these further significant cuts.

Fire and rescue services will continue to do all they can to provide the high quality emergency services that the public expect and deserve. Despite the funding reductions CFOA will continue to support fire and rescue services so that they can maintain a safe, effective and trusted emergency response alongside their vital prevention and protection work that helps build safer and healthier communities.

New Think! Campaign targets those getting behind the wheel

Think! has launched its new campaign to target those people who still think it is okay to have a couple of drinks before they get behind the wheel.

CFOA believe that the drink drive limit should reduced further in the UK, to bring it into line with Scotland.

Reducing the drink-drive limit from 80mg to 50mg of alcohol in every 100ml of blood could reduce crashes by almost 5,000 per annum, potentially preventing up to 168 deaths a year. This could not only save lives, it could provide savings to the public purse of as much as £285 million a year.

The below is taken from the Think! press release and new Christmas campaign. 

· A second drink can double your chance of being in a fatal collision
· One in ten people would have two or more drinks before driving
· One in five (19%) men aged 18-34 would have two or more drinks

New research from THINK! shows that while half the population (51%) would not consider consuming any alcoholic drinks before driving, a shocking one in ten people would consider having two or more drinks before they get behind the wheel. This increases to one in five among men aged 18-34 (19%).

The government has launched a new campaign to tackle drink driving, targeting those who do not recognise that even a small number of drinks before driving can be deadly. It urges everyone to THINK! before drinking and driving. New adverts highlight how a second drink can double the chance of being in a fatal collision.

Road Safety Minister Andrew Jones said:

“Drivers know that drink driving is wrong. It can destroy families and ruin lives. Yet some irresponsible drivers still take the risk and get behind the wheel when they shouldn’t.

“Over the past thirty years drink drive deaths have fallen significantly but every death or serious injury is one too many. The best way for drivers to keep themselves and other road users safe is simple: don’t drink and drive.”

Today’s figures show that the majority of drivers in England and Wales are aware of the need to avoid drinking before driving. 60% of people surveyed said that it is not okay to drink at all before driving. However, even though 93% of people don’t think it is right to drive after more than one drink, almost a fifth (18%) admit to having done so.

Sarah Sillars, Institute of Advanced Motorists chief executive officer, said:

“Many of the people we work with on our drink-drive rehabilitation courses aren’t repeat offenders, many are drivers who thought that a second one couldn’t hurt.

“We support THINK!’s campaign which highlights the importance of avoiding the temptation of ‘just one more’.

“Know your limits and know the legal limit. Getting that second drink calculation wrong is easily avoided just by remembering that if you drive, don’t drink.”

Liz Brooker, Spokesperson for Road Safety GB, said:

“The combined efforts to tackle those who choose to drink and drive have been successful over the years.

“But some people still think of a drink driver as someone who drinks copious amounts and gets in the car.

“They don’t realise that they could be a drink driver too, by having a small amount to drink and taking to the road.

“This campaign will make people think twice before taking another drink, helping to make our roads safer.”

Research note: Interviews were conducted with 781 drivers aged 18 and over in England and Wales from 17th -19th November 2015, using OnLineBus, the TNS internet omnibus survey